Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Is So Yesterday

So it's Easter Monday. 

After the emotional ups and downs of the past three days, we could be pretty spent today. The last three days have brought shock, fear, depression, dejection, and finally exhileration and well, some doubt that all of this could be true. Ups and downs, for sure.

But today, all that is past. What do we do now? Now that Easter has passed, so what?

If we are really Easter people, Monday brings the realization that we aren't dead, and that there is work to be done. Much has not changed; we are going to work or school; maybe we're going to look for work or care for kids. In any case, today is going to look much the same as last Monday. As far as our outward daily routine goes, much has not changed.

And there's the rub. The world seems to go on just as it did. Eventually, we know that the exhileration and expansion of Spring will give way to the hot, dry staleness of Summer. What is there to keep that from happening?

From outward forces, nothing really. But inwardly the challenge is to let the realizations of Easter take deep root in our souls. Roots which will be able to drink from the spirit-refreshing water of the Spirit.

As that spring continuously wells up inside us, it will bear us up and carry us along through the lengthening days. Bear us up so that we can remember that we are Easter people; that our baptisms - our deaths to ourselves - are real for us. Disciples who live into their baptized lives see the world through different lenses, and from a different space. We stand knowing that death is not the end and at the same time that this life isn't necessarily easy (if Jesus' life is any indication). If death isn't the end, then this life isn't driven toward death, but through death.

It is our glimpse of what is past death and what has been brought into this life now. The rule of God in ourselves. Our transformation. Our living with God and He in us. The purpose of our existence now becomes one with God's will and desire. Not looking to escape this world but learning to want to live in this life as God did. To see the suffering, the disorderedness, the confusion, the violence and to extend the grace of God and the knowledge of God to the world that He made.

The knowledge of God is not about God - that He exists or what are the aspects of His existence (as though we know them exhaustively). Knowledge of God is the knowledge of His character, His purposes, His Life.
Easter people are called to this. There is no other purpose for Easter as far as we are concerned. God has once again demonstrated both His love and His power in the Creation and it is our choice whether humankind will again forget Him, and His will for us.

The challenge of Easter Monday is to settle in, but not settle. The challenge of Easter Monday is to keep moving, but in a new direction. The challenge of Easter Monday is to give in, but not to give up.

This is our challenge of living as people of God - to keep His desires ahead of us. To follow Him instead of ourselves. To surrender ourselves to be given ourselves back with transformed hearts refreshed by the Spirit. To spend our lives in His Life. To receive His blessings so that we can bless the Creation.

Your prayer for Easter Monday:

Our great God who has suprised us; and caused us to express great praise for your wonder working. You who gives your Son to die and then raises Him again. You who has set the stars in their courses and at the same time crafts us in finite detail.

We praise you for your goodness and grace; for your patience and mercy in outworking your will for the world despite not being understood and often ignored by us, your very creation. 

As the events of Easter fade, renew in us your Spirit to invigorate our faith and to keep you before us so that we will not forget you. Extend to us your grace so that we might surrender to you and in so doing learn to love being You in this place not for our benefit but for the blessing of others.

Remind us of Easter and our own baptisms; of our own deaths and the Life we can have now.

Make us truly into Easter people, bringing you to this world.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Easter 2012

The women have returned. They had gone to the tomb, and have returned wide-eyed, breathless, and spitting out that the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive! 

Could this be? We're all exhausted and we have all seen some odd stuff that isn't there because of a couple days with little or no sleep. Did they go to the right tomb in the dark? Was the gardener really Jesus, or is this simply wishful thinking? If it was Jesus, why didn't they recognize him right off?

With heads and eyes tired, their hearts now jump in their chests, their eyes become brighter, and they take a deep breath or two; they sit up straighter, trying to grasp the implications of what they're saying. And then they too go to the tomb - sprinting! Maybe more to verify that the women had actually been to the right place, and guardedly but hopefully excited as they remember some vague promise that he wouldn't be dead long.

The tomb is there alright and that rock is out of place. It might be too wonderful - or would it be soul crushing what they might find in there? If the women were right, they would be ecstatic; if they were wrong well, they'd just as soon not go through the last two days all over again.

They hesitate to catch their breath and then....go in.

What is this?! His body isn't here, what does this mean?

Angels speak and their apprehensions evaporate - He is risen! He is risen! HE IS RISEN!

They grasp their chests, their eyes brim with tears, they catch their breaths. Unbidden their arms move and shake; their legs begin to move on their own. Now, their entire bodies are fairly bouncing around!

The others, they have to tell the others!

Run! Back to the house!

Their message on their way back and after they gather the disciples together repeatedly is...

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

He is risen! He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Oh how remarkable this is! It's funny, that they're not tired anymore. It's as if they have all the energy in the world. Almost as though they have been given new lives.

Praise God, Jesus is risen!

Your prayer for Easter morning:

Great is our God who announces the coming of Messiah by angels to Mary, to shepherds, and now to the disciples. God who raises the Son out of darkness and into light, so he can lead us out of darkness and into Light.

We thank you for your mercy and grace of giving us the hope of a risen Savior who leads us to you. Help us to see his life and death as our life and death. Lead us into your love and Life.

As you granted you power to raise Jesus, we ask that you extend to us that same power to raise us from our selfish lives into lives that seek to heal and soothe; lives that give grace and act in compassion; lives that seek to be you where we find ourselves.

Father today, we trust that you have noticed these past weeks of reflection, of review, of refocusing, of repentance. We have again stopped our lives for a time and admit that we had let them get away from you. We have determined to return our lives to you and your work. To live in the life that you offer, and in the transformation you promise our surrender.

Father today, accept our praise and rejoicing for this short space. We are embarassed by our doubts and our readiness to give up. Help us to draw on His resurrection for strength and willing acknowledement that you have called us to, and have given us Life with you and for you. Dispell our depressed thoughts and our fears. Pour into our hearts Light and Life, and use us to show others your love for them.

We praise you and we commit ourselves to living in your Life in the world you have created, and extending your love and care to that same world. 

You are great; you are wonderful.

We give ourselves to you.


Friday, April 06, 2012

Holy Saturday, 2012

Today the disciples woke - or came into the day after being awake all night with the stunning realization that their Messiah was dead. As the shock of yesterday's mob violence becomes less than full-view dominating, and the feelings turn to realizing they are alone, the haze of shock becomes the chest-crushing pain of fear.

They stay in their houses or where they had retreated after his death. Not wanting to face the expected jeers of non-believers, and yet afraid of meeting each others' eyes. It is Passover week, the remembrance of being delivered from oppression for all of Israel but these cannot participate; they have been shamed.

Perhaps then, it's good that today is the Sabbath; a perfect excuse to stay in, away from the glances that prompt their self-conscious guilt.

On this side of Easter, we wait expectantly. On their side, they sit in quiet panic, dejection, and a sad wondering what had happened. Ours is much easier and yet we can perhaps imagine their angst. Remove from your mind the reminders of an Easter that hasn't happened yet. After Good Friday and its sudden dark and crack! there is nowhere to turn.

Your sin has killed your God and there is no solution remaining. You are out of options; the full weight of your me-life rests on you; overwhelms you; defeats you. Can you feel your breath quicken and grow shallow? Does your body experience some nervous energy in your chest and shoulders?

This is the challenge of Holy Saturday. To sit in extended time with your guilt and your aloneness. We don't like to do this; we want to run to Sunday to rid ourselves of this hurt. It is all too easy for us on this side of Easter.

Don't rush. Wait and ponder; and pray:

Father, we confess to you our pride, our sins of doing and those of not doing. We confess that our eyes both lead us to sin, and keep us from seeing the hurt we might relieve. We confess that our hands both hurt and fail to heal. We confess that our tongues both curse and fail to soothe.

Father, we confess that in our waiting today, we can see and feel the truth of our separation from you. The weight is heavy; our eyes become constricted; our mouths are dry. Like the people of Nineveh we are tempted to sit in sack cloth and ashes having lost our hope.

In our disoriented state, we bear our confusion as headaches and have no appetite. To run away would be too easy; a denial we do not want. Help us Father to wait this day and not abandon you; give us grace to stay with you.

Give us by your mercy the strength to look for you today. The patience to rest on your as yet unseen and fantastic promise to raise yourself. Help us to believe while we cannot see.


Good Friday Prayer

My God, my God! 
Why have I forsaken Thee?
Beaten, haggard, bloodied, raw;
For me your loving arms extended
To draw me home into your life;
You hang on that cross for me.
Painful, painful, painful day!
When I at last can see
My sin, my part, your agony.
You say forgive because
I do not know;
But God, today I do!
Your love, your care
For me it hurts
To see you there upon that curse;
To know that I have done my work
That holds you there with nail and wood.
Today I pray that you will grant
A few more days of gracious space
For me to meet your gaze from there.
And with your eyes to lift me up
To die with you and wait
For Life to dawn with mercy’s light.
A life of love; a heart of grace
Craft in my soul to see your face.
In furtive hope I grasp at you
To feel your arms no longer pinned
But wrapped me round and firmly gripped.
Brought to and into you at once
And molded sure like your own love;
Patient and kind despite my sin
Welcome and hold me safe within.
My Lord! My Lord, forgive you me!
Lest I faint and ne’er refresh
To live with you in love for’er.

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